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2011 October 26 - November 1 TOP3 [ECONOMY]

TPP to threaten food safety

November 1, 2011

In preparation for entry into negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the government is considering relaxing domestic regulations on U.S. beef imports.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu on October 25 announced the cabinet’s intention to deregulate the standard that only allows imports of meat of U.S. cattle 20 months old or younger.

Public concern is growing that the entry into the TPP free-trade pact will threaten domestic food safety. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in its annual reports, has called on other countries to revise their food safety-related regulations.

In the “2011 Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures” published in March, the USTR urged Japan to lower standards on the following seven items: beef and beef products; frozen French fries; food additives; gelatin; postharvest fungicide; maximum residue limits; and rice.

The report criticizes Japan for limiting U.S. beef imports and banning imports of U.S. ruminant gelatin as countermeasures against BSE. It states that the U.S. continues to press Japan to lift these regulations “based on science, the OIE (International Epizootic Office) guidelines, and the United States’ controlled risk status.”

Concerning frozen French fries, the report says, “Japan’s standards for microbial content on frozen foods are, in certain instances, overly restrictive,” and criticized, “Japan has occasionally rejected shipments of U.S. frozen French fries […] due to the presence of coliform bacteria.”

“French flies will be cooked in oil, eliminating the presence of coliforms, and thus any risk of negative health effects,” according to the report.

The USTR states, “Japan’s rice import regime limits the competitiveness of U.S. rice in the Japanese market through a number of measures, including excessive testing requirements,” and calls on Japan to streamline the testing procedures.

If Japan joins in the TPP negotiations currently taken part in by 9 countries, such requests will likely be presented by the U.S. in discussions.

Even a TPP report issued by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan states, “Although relaxations of food safety standards are not being discussed at this point, the possibility that they will be included in future discussions cannot be ruled out.”
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